For many new moms, the weeks, months and even years after giving birth can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions.
Part of this is due to hormones and all of the lifestyle changes that come with having a baby. And for many of us, part of this is due to our relationship with our body.
All too often, we have unrealistic expectations of how our bodies should look or how quickly we should return to normal after giving birth.
Many of us aren’t prepared for the reality that our bodies may still look pregnant for a while after the baby is born.
If you’re struggling with your postpartum body, here are a few reminders of how your body has changed in order to prepare for birth:
1. There are many hormonal changes during pregnancy. One of these changes includes the release of relaxin. This hormone has many functions, but one of them causes ligaments and joints to become “lax” or loose, especially in the pelvis in order to prepare for delivery. This can be one of the causes of back and SI joint pain while pregnant and postpartum. Unfortunately, ligament laxity also puts women at an increased risk for injury with everyday activities and during exercise.
2. Your diaphragm was pushed up and other internal organs were moved around in order to make space for your growing baby, but this also affects your breathing. Did you notice how you may have become short of breath with walking or going up the stairs when you were pregnant? I sure do! This is due to the changes with the position of the diaphragm and ribs. Along with this, your ribs are pushed out in order to make room for the baby.
3. Your abdominals were stretched out and you might have diastasis recti (DR), which is a separation or thinning of the linea alba. Linea alba is the thin connective tissue which connects the rectus abdominis muscles in the middle. It is common for some separation to occur during pregnancy. Diastasis recti is defined as a 2 finger width separation or gap between the rectus abdominis muscle. As a result of your abs being stretched out and postural change, this usually means your low back muscles are very tight and overworked.
4. Your pelvic floor handled a significant amount of pressure (yes, even if you had a C-section). The pelvic floor muscles have many functions, but one of them is to provide lift and support to the pelvic organs and prevent leaks. Organ prolapse and incontinence are common issues if you have weak pelvic floor muscles.
With these physical changes along with the sleep deprivation and psychological stress that often comes with having a newborn, it’s no wonder that your body isn’t back to normal.
All these changes during pregnancy affect your recovery after giving birth. Give yourself some grace and respect the amazing work your body just endured for 9 months and during delivery. I know it's hard, but do not push yourself to “return to normal” as you may end up doing more harm than good.
We will be diving into more details about each of these major changes during pregnancy and how to help correct it during your postpartum recovery.